Thou Shalt Not Judge?


I want to talk a little bit about judging tonight.  Apparently Matt Walsh blogged about this recently, arguing that we ought to judge, just not judge wrongly.  Then someone else responded asserting that we shouldn’t be judgmental at all.  And all around social media these days there are choruses of people stating what’s wrong or not wrong about what someone does, followed by others yelling “don’t judge others” and so on and so forth…  It can really be quite anxiety-inducing.  I’m going to take another approach to this, aware that I may be wrong as well (use your judgement).  

When it comes to “judge” or “do not judge”, it is typically approached from a religious perspective, as did both blogs mentioned above.  However, when it comes to “truth” (I’m not sure there exist any absolute truths, but there are some that certainly apply most of the time), I’m of the opinion that it should apply within or without a religious context, so I attend to approach it from a strictly humanitarian perspective.

Here’s the thing.  You have to make judgements.  There’s no way around that.  Not only that, it’s very important to get very good at making judgements.  I was raised primarily on the “do not judge” side of the bandwagon, and I’ve found that it’s not only impossible to not judge anything, but it leaves you sort feeling like you don’t have any personhood – not knowing what you like or don’t like, believe in or don’t believe in, or want or don’t want.  You feel directionless.  Working those preferences out for yourself involves watching and observing others, evaluating, and making judgements for yourself.

Judgements for yourself.

I think that’s the key here.  That combined with one other consideration ABSOLUTELY must be combined for judgment to work:

1) Make judgments for yourself

2) Build boundaries for yourself (and your children if you have them)


1) Make judgments for yourself

I’m not sure why, but it seems like we are all bent on determining that our way of life must be the way of life for everyone.  Whatever one’s individual truth and individual life philosophy is, it must be everyone else’s life philosophy.  I’m guessing this is some way for our brains to try to balance all the messages we receive on a daily basis and reconcile the myriad opinions of all the millions of people running around doing different (and sometimes crazy or hurtful) things.  It’s probably a coping and a defense mechanism, likely one that began in childhood and just never wore off.

But it’s not really necessary for adults.

We have to make judgements for ourselves, this is true.  We see and hear about lots of things in daily life:

People choosing to go to college
People choosing to pursue a particular line of work
People choosing to hurt or abuse other people
People choosing to help someone else in need
People choosing to engage in drugs – illegal or prescription 

We need to watch, learn, evaluate, and decide.  Decide which of these things we want to incorporate in our lives, which ones we don’t, how we will incorporate or avoid them, and what results we hope to expect.  That is what judgement is.

In fact, good ol’ confirms that!

Judgement: “the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, especially in matters affecting action; good sense; discretion”

That’s funny, I don’t see anything in that definition about other people or other people’s decisions…

So while you’re watching, observing, learning, and making judgements, think about this: it is perfectly ok to decide that someone else’s way of life, belief system, or particular choices are or are not the right ones for you.  But there is NO need, as stated in the very definition of the word judgment, to determine whether another person’s way of life, belief system, or particular choices are or are not right for THEM.  There’s simply no reason to even consider it.  You can’t control their life or decisions anyways, nor should you try to, so why even go there?  Don’t.  Their choices may well be horrible for them – but it doesn’t matter for you.  You will be SO much happier, and you will have a much easier time making judgements for your own life when you don’t pressure yourself to worry about anyone else’s choices; trust me.

2) Building Boundaries for Yourself

There’s another side to this judgement equation that I think is very important.  It is only indirectly related to judgement, but I think as a society we’ve smushed the two together even though they don’t really match: building boundaries.

Here’s how we typically view this: you see someone do something that you feel is wrong (that’s ok), you decide they are a bad person, you know you should stay away from bad people, so you build a boundary.  (Note: I’ve identified previously that this way of viewing things is not only appropriate, but necessary in situations of abuse.  For more on that, see this blog post.  This particular post is intended for those situations where chronic abuse is not present).  This sounds good in theory, but the problem is that you can actually believe that something someone else does is wrong FOR YOU without it actually being wrong on a totalitarian moral perspective.  So incidentally, you end up chopping people out of your life that are perfectly good people, but simply have a different set of rules that work for them.

Here’s my suggestion: you see someone do something that you feel is wrong (that’s ok), you assert to yourself that you would never feel okay doing that, you move on.  That’s pretty simple, right?  No need to pass judgement on the “goodness” or “badness” of the other person.  

Now here’s an alternative scenario that can happen where your life is affected which can also be dealt with without involving judgement: someone does something to you (or your child, or sometimes someone you love) that you feel is wrong (that’s ok), you assert to that person that what they did to you is not ok with you, you build a boundary (either verbally or sometimes just emotionally), you move on with plans to continue asserting that boundary should the infraction continue to occur.

Was there any point in that last scenario where judgement on the other person was passed?  No.  Did you still reserve the right to stay true to your own morals and belief system?  Yes.  And that second part is SO important.  People assume that staying true to your own morals means you have to pass judgement on other people and their personal choices.  That’s not true. You can stay true to your own morals as they apply to you without ever asking anyone else to adopt them; you simply ask them to respect your own belief system as their actions affect you.  This serves you by giving you no obligation to remain friends with or spend time with a convicted murderer, verbally abusive friend or partner, or even a person that just makes you really uncomfortable.  However, it also allows you to spend time with, respect, and love someone whose religious or cultural preferences are quite opposite yours so long as the respect and admiration is mutual.

Cool?  You got it, RealGirls!

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